Offbeat Memorial for a Comedian


Even in death, Monty Python’s Graham Chapman was in “for something completely different.”

The actor-comedian, who died in October of cancer, was the recipient of a belated memorial service/media event/cocktail party at the St. James’ Club Tuesday night that was, in the words of one British guest, “neither here nor there--I can’t quite say what it was.”

It was cracked up to be a chance for Chapman’s Hollywood friends to “raise a glass to a departed friend” in the words of Timothy Leary, and perhaps make a donation to Chapman’s favorite charity, the Kent Leukemia & Cancer Fund (envelopes for the charity were handed out with invitations). But most of those raising glasses appeared to be the regular suspects on the local PR schmooze circuit plus assorted paparazzi and film crews.

Not that there weren’t any Chapman friends in attendance--David Sherlock, Chapman’s lover for 23 years, was on hand to give a heartfelt 10-minute tribute, and songwriter Harry Nilsson knew the comedian “in the old days, when we used to drink together,” said Nilsson, who now sips on Coca-Cola.


In those days, Chapman’s feats of alcoholic excess were legendary. He was notorious for drunkenly crawling along the floor and biting his prey on the ankles.

“They deserved it,” said Nilsson. “He loved to bust pomposity; he hated stuffed shirts.”

“He was irreverent and revolutionary,” said Leary. “Graham helped bring down the Berlin Wall. Someone has to get the credit.”

Chapman would be pleased to know there was little pomposity at his memorial, which was hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts L.A. chapter. However, the ankles on such guests as Ed Asner, Elliott Gould, songwriter Thomas Dolby, and SCTV veterans Catherine O’Hara and Dave Thomas went unbitten.